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by Michael P. Hill August 26, 2015

Selecting the best premium Shopify theme for your ecommerce store can be a challenge — after all there are plenty of great themes to pick from in Shopify’s own theme store, plus many more available from other marketplaces.

And, with many Shopify themes costing upwards of several hundreds of dollars, it’s not an investment to take lightly.

So, how do select the best Shopify theme for your store? Here are three key points to consider when doing your research on which premium Shopify theme to use.

1. You get what you pay for

Premium Shopify theme pricing can vary widely — ranging from free to several hundreds of dollars.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that, with premium Shopify themes, like so much more in life, you do tend to get what you pay for. A higher priced theme, particularly those in the official Shopify theme store or from a developer who sells there already, are much more likely to have undergone quality control and had much more attention to detail paid to its design and coding during development.

Remember that the Shopify theme store is highly selective about what themes are accepted — and while they are some of the most expensive on the market, they tend to be well worth the investment.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the cost difference between a $50 theme and a $300 theme isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you could save $250 by going with a cheaper theme, but you may find that the theme isn’t nearly as flexible as you need it to be or the support offered is severely lacking.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with going with a lower priced theme if you carefully research it, understand its limitations and have determined that its other features outweigh other factors.

2. Consider the reputation of the developer

When selecting a premium Shopify theme, it’s important to pay close attention to the theme author’s reputation.

Use a search engine to search for reviews of both the theme and the theme author, paying close attention to quality of support. Most theme marketplaces, including Shopify’s own, include some kind of rating or review system, so pay close attention to those as well.

Don’t let a negative review, however, throw your entire opinion of the theme author, however. Keep in mind that people do tend to be more likely to leave impassioned reviews when they have a bad experience.

All that said, it’s also important to be wary of theme authors with perfect reviews — as this could be a signal that at least some of the feedback is not legitimate. Instead, look for constructive criticism about the theme and, if possible, see how the theme author responded to it.

Also check if the theme developer has published in the Shopify theme store before. As Shopify narrows its criteria for new themes, some theme developers are finding they must sell new themes outside the official theme store.

However, a developer with experience working with the theme store guidelines is more likely to incorporate those practices into all themes that are created under its name.

Also, if possible, try exploring the theme author’s premium Shopify theme support center to see what types of questions users have and how responsive the theme’s support is. You should also keep an eye out for complete and comprehensive documentation and FAQs, as these can be incredibly useful when trying to troubleshoot your own questions after you purchase.

3. Consider your site’s needs first

Before starting your premium Shopify theme research, your first step should be to make a quick list of “must have” features, “nice to have features” and “not needed” features.

A good strategy is to be very strict about which items go into the “must have” column. Before adding an item to it, carefully consider how important the feature is to accomplish your main goal with a Shopify ecommerce site — make sales.

Sure, it would be nice to have all the fancy bells and whistles you see on Fortune 500 ecommerce sites, but keep in mind those companies spend millions of dollars every year on software development and, while the features may be impressive, most of them would have a negligible effect on smaller online shopping sites.

Once you’ve categorized the features, start reviewing each theme carefully, including reading any feature lists and experiment with the online demos. Narrow your list by eliminating themes that don’t have your “must haves” while moving ones that do to the top of the list.

Any that have too many “not needed” points should also be eliminated.

Then, segment these semi-finalists by ones that include most of your “nice to haves” and narrow your list further.

Bonus: Function over form

While eye-catching design certainly does give your ecommerce site an edge, a good strategy can be to let the needs discussed in Tip 3 be your primary qualifiers and consider the look and feel of the Shopify theme only in the later stages of your selection process.

Bottom line: You shouldn’t let a flashy theme stand in the way of selecting a theme that will ultimately give you more of the functionality you need to make sales.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.

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